Even the most amiable and well-intentioned neighbours can find themselves at odds with one another from time to time. For the most part, common neighbour disputes can be resolved without the intervention of a third party. In most cases, the best course of action is to sort things out with your neighbour in a friendly and informal manner and reach a compromise that is acceptable to both parties.
The ideal approach for reconciliation is to consider each other’s point of view and any circumstances that may have created an imbalance in your views, such as your respective backgrounds, work schedules, disparate ages or beliefs. Many disputes stem from the differences in which we view the world and how we feel it should operate, so understanding one another’s viewpoint can really help.
If a solution just can’t be worked out between yourselves in an informal setting, some potential courses of action are outlined below.
Neighbour dispute, where to turn?
Common strata issues – such as pets fouling the common areas, use of facilities out of permitted hours, excessive noise, or visitors misusing parking spaces – can usually be dealt with by having a quiet word with the building manager, strata manager or committee, so this should be the first port of call in such scenarios.
For situations where an impasse has been reached, there are other avenues available to help you break the deadlock without breaking the bank.
There are several dispute resolution services across the country. They provide telephone advice and assistance for a range of disputes. These include disputes between neighbours over common causes of enmity, such as boundary fence issues, overhanging trees, excessive noise, unruly pets creating a racket or doing their business on the neighbour’s lawn, and so on.
Organisations such as the Australian Disputes Centre and the Resolution Institute, have trained staff who listen to concerns, help clarify the issues, answer questions, and work with the parties involved in the dispute to provide options and strategies for resolving it. They can also refer complainants to other specialist services where needed.
If you want to solve the problem yourself but are not quite sure how to go about it, the Conflict Resolution Network offers a wealth of free learning resources to equip you with the necessary skills to resolve many different types of disputes.
…and if that doesn’t work…
When a settlement cannot be agreed between the two warring parties, bringing in a trained and accredited mediator, who is impartial, is generally the next step.
The overall aim of this is to help the disputing parties resolve their issues by reaching an agreement that is fair to everyone involved.
The last resort.
If the above-mentioned methods do not bring about a successful resolution, there is always the option of taking the matter to court. Given that the outcome of court proceedings is uncertain, it can take a long time to reach a decision and be very expensive in doing so, and the likelihood of causing irreparable damage to the relationship between you and your neighbour is high, so it should always be used as the very last resort.